HomepagePlan of Kyiv in 1930s
The Church of the Nativity
(Rizdva Khrystovoho)

The Monastery Of St. Michael Of The Golden Domes

 

Built in 1810-14, demolished in 1935.

Of the three neo-classical churches which were built by A. I. Melenskyi in the Podil and demolished in the 1930s, the Church of the Nativity (1810-14) had a special significance to Ukrainians. It is in this church that the body of the famous poet and national hard, Taras Shevehenko, the "Ukrainian Robert Burns", lay in state on May 6-8, 1861 while on its way to Shevchenko's final resting place in the city of Kaniv.
As one descends from the Uppertown to Podil along the curved and steep Kirova Street, a vista of the entire Lowertown slowly opens up. The Church of the Nativity, located on the corner of the Oleksandrivska (now Zhukova) Street and the Poshtova Square, was the visual terminal as one approached from the Uppertown to the Lowertown, its neo-classical dome heralding arrival into the Podil. Despite the very small parcel of land he had to work with, the architect succeeded in developing an effective and well proportioned structure that responded admirably to its setting. The central space of the church was covered by a dome, a semi-circular apse on the eastern side of the building accommodated the altar, and a belfry above the narthex on the western side marked the main entrance. Neo-classical porticoes of four columns with pediments above them, were on both the main and side entrances. In the interior were a gilded wooden iconostasis, icons in silver frames, and a low brass railing before the altar.
The Church of the Nativity, known among Kiev's inhabitants as Shevchenko's Church, was demolished in 1935. According to Oleksa Powstenko, the Architectural Planning Administration of the City Council courageously attempted to save Shevchenko's Church. The master plan of Kiev's reconstruction, as formulated by the Architectural Planning Administration, had the Church of the Nativity among those landmarks proposed to be preserved. However, the final version of the master plan, as it was approved in Moscow, excluded the majority of the landmarks recommended for preservation.
Demolition of the church of the Nativity was apparently generated in preparation for the discussed reconstruction of the Poshtova Square next to the Riverport. The 1935 master plan envisioned a reconstructed and enlarged Poshtova Square, "fully tying it" with the Lowertown's street network and the projected Capital Center in the Uppertown. In the last months of 1935, at the same time as the Kiev master plan was being completed, a limited competition for the development of the new Riverport was held. Four architectural firms from Kiev and two from Moscow were invited to submit designs for the proposed new terminal. The reconstruction of the Square never materialized and the terminal was built only in the late 1950s.
Oleksa Powstenko has recorded that the Soviet authorities did not allow a survey of the Church building before its demolition. As in other cases of destroyed churches prior to its demolition, all valuables were confiscated, and the gold and silver frames from the iconostasis and icons were removed. Subsequently, the carved wooden iconostasis was burned and most of the icons were sold abroad.
On the same block as the Church of Nativity, facing the Poshtova Square, and one house further to the northeast of the church, was an old one story high Poshtova Station (Post Transportation Station) dating from 1850. Though of admittedly mundane character, this building was not demolished in the 1930s and in 1963 was listed on the Ukrainian Republic's Registry of architectural landmarks. In the late 1970s planning work commenced on the development of the historic Lowertown into a pedestrian oriented tourist center of the Ukrainian Capital. Subsequent planning work concluded that enrichment of the skyline of the southern end of the Podil would be facilitated by the reconstruction of Melenskyrs Church of the Nativity. No definitive plans for this reconstruction (developed by Soviet architect V. P. Shevehenko) have been published.

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